Death has no friends since his touch is deadly. He goes about doing his job until he is assigned Sparkles the last unicorn, who dies in an unsafe publicity stunt. Sparkles meets a giant cupcake and a dragon who explains that Sparkles must go back and fulfill the purpose of unicorns to spread joy and laughter. After a hilarious bit of back and forth, Sparkles and Death work out an agreement and a tentative friendship. Neither of them have ever had a friend before, though, and they aren’t quite sure how it works. However, they do a great job introducing each other to new things like cupcakes and videogames. 

On the other hand, the Lizard Bros are aliens trying to convince humans that climate change is real and needs to be addressed. When they get no positive responses, they accept a proposal from Sparkles’ old manager to become famous in order to get their message out. When Sparkles is kidnapped to be tortured in front of a live audience, Death convinces the Lizard Bros to let them both go if they can win the Xtreme Cupcake Convention Competition, where Death and Sparkles get to show off their new friendship skills. 

This was a longer book than I was anticipating at 359 pages, especially since some pages have almost no words while others are dense with text. There are plenty of fart jokes for the younger readers as well as cupcake references. I loved the way the author worked life skills into the story and how well the soft illustrations matched the tone. I wasn’t convinced that the lizard aliens added much to the overall story, but their message is a good one. 

This is the first volume in a new series and it would do well in any middle school or public library. It is a good introduction to the concept of death and how to overcome its effects in everyday life by continuing to live and interact with the world. There’s also a good message about climate change hidden within that can get young readers thinking about that in their own lives. 

Death & Sparkles, Vol. 1
By Rob Justus
Chronicle Books, 2021
ISBN: 9781797206356
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)

  • Liz

    | she/her Assistant Professor


    Elizabeth Hollendonner is an Assistant Professor for Staley Library at Millikin University. She has been reading and enjoying graphic novels and manga since grade school, took a comics class under Dr. Carol Tilley and a book review class under Dr. Deborah Stevenson while earning her Master of Science in Library and Information Science degree.

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